Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Tim Lucas' ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK was the rage among genre fans a couple years ago, and for good reason. The doorstop-sized tome on Mario Bava was a long-in-the-making, exhaustive look at the Italian icon's legendary career. Frankly, though, I've got my fingers crossed for someone to tackle the career of Baby Bava so I can get detailed analysis of flicks like DEMONS and DELIRIUM. In the meantime, sit back while guest reviewer David Zuzelo of Tomb It May Concern/Tough to Kill fame tackles the recent Raro release of the oddball latter-day giallo BODY PUZZLE.

"It's not a finger..."

Lamberto Bava, in my opinion, is one of the truest mainstays of the European Trash Cinema pantheon.  While it is an easy argument to say that he is no Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci or his father Mario for that matter, very few of them had to work in an environment like Lamberto has found.  Bouncing from big screen to small, he has propped up and created the genre films of Italy right up until his recent run of tele-terrors that include VISIONS OF MURDER and more.  Yes, in 2012 Lamberto is still creating Italian horror and suspense films.

Frankly, there weren't a lot of Giallo films being produced even in 1992, and that made BODY PUZZLE an even bigger score upon its initial release as MISTERIA in Italy. To a US fan like myself it was an eagerly sought after title. Now that it has had THREE separate US releases I'm glad to see a really nice version available for posterity. Is it worthy of being a 70s giallo? No. The times and market demands were different, but BODY PUZZLE takes a nicely wacked-out premise and brings it to the screen in Eurotrash Thriller fashion.  And to be honest, this movie pummels the crap out of much of Dario Argento's work post Nonhosonno.  Seriously.

A mysterious accident gets the ball rolling as the death of Abe Grant puts a bunch of killings in motion.  His wife Tracy, played by Joanna Pacula, lives in a cool house (with a pool INSIDE!) and starts to get body parts dropped inside her house, past her security system.  The killer knows her and definitely has a gore dipped message to PIECES!  Enter the dashing dick, played by Tomas Arana of THE CHURCH - he wants to solve the mystery and get into bed with the now freed up Mrs. Grant.  But is she really free?  The duo unwrap the mystery as several victims get dispatched in odd ways.  An underwater murder sequence features a "balls as a buoy for a dong drop" moment that is a favorite, but one set piece in BODY PUZZLE is my favorite.  As the motivations become clear a teacher in a school for blind children is placed in danger, and hacked up in front of her unseeing pupils.  I'm not sure if it's the idea of it or the fact that this schoolteacher is rocking a nipple-popping pink outfit that I guess you could get away if your kid charges were actually blind. That way the lads aren't humping her leg.  All I know is that I'm an Ursula von Baechler fan for life because of this film.

It all ends leaving the viewer feeling a bit like a puzzled guard in Metal Gear as a question mark hovers over their head, but the twist is strange enough that it is entertaining, and the cop's final reaction is priceless as he walks off.   The movie never really goes to the demented level that PIECES took a similar tale, but almost seems to admit that as Arana just wanders out of the scene...

Right from the start BODY PUZZLE is not a mystery film; the killer is seen as a character in the story instead of the goal to be reached.  His motivations are the question, as well as his actual identity - which delivers the final hook of the story.  Lamberto Bava can do cruelty on a budget and shows yet another nasty reason to not go into a bathroom when he is around.  Seems he likes smashing people to bits against stark white backdrops.  The director makes the best of his environments, manages to toss a few moments of self-aware humor (hey, it's MORT the Medical Examiner!) and even gives a few nods to the glory days of Italian cinema with cameos from Erika Blanc, Gianni Garko, Bruno Corazzari and an extended appearance by Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

The glory days of European Trash are over...hell, the revival of the Glory Days are over by and large, but I'm glad that Lamberto Bava persists, and that Raro Video put out this much improved edition of BODY PUZZLE as well.  There are some nice set pieces and well-designed shots that look far better than ever before.  While there are no extras on the DVD, anyone interested in the film will be satisfied. The essays by Chris Alexander and Matt Patay remind me of why I used to enjoy collecting DVD booklets. Both make good points and are worth reading for Bava fans. – David Zuzelo

BODY PUZZLE is available from Amazon.

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